WO1990008030A1 - Injection molded star-couplers and methods of making same - Google Patents

Injection molded star-couplers and methods of making same Download PDF

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Publication number
WO1990008030A1
WO1990008030A1 PCT/US1990/000228 US9000228W WO9008030A1 WO 1990008030 A1 WO1990008030 A1 WO 1990008030A1 US 9000228 W US9000228 W US 9000228W WO 9008030 A1 WO9008030 A1 WO 9008030A1
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Patent type
Prior art keywords
channels
plurality
coupler
injection molded
core material
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US1990/000228
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Michael H. Coden
Bulusu V. Dutt
Original Assignee
Codenoll Technology Corporation
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Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G02OPTICS
    • G02BOPTICAL ELEMENTS, SYSTEMS, OR APPARATUS
    • G02B6/00Light guides
    • G02B6/24Coupling light guides
    • G02B6/26Optical coupling means
    • G02B6/28Optical coupling means having data bus means, i.e. plural waveguides interconnected and providing an inherently bidirectional system by mixing and splitting signals
    • G02B6/2804Optical coupling means having data bus means, i.e. plural waveguides interconnected and providing an inherently bidirectional system by mixing and splitting signals forming multipart couplers without wavelength selective elements, e.g. "T" couplers, star couplers
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE, IN GENERAL
    • B29DPRODUCING PARTICULAR ARTICLES FROM PLASTICS OR FROM SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE
    • B29D11/00Producing optical elements, e.g. lenses or prisms
    • B29D11/0074Production of other optical elements not provided for in B29D11/00009- B29D11/0073
    • B29D11/0075Connectors for light guides

Abstract

A star-coupler (10) and a method for constructing the star-coupler employing injection molding technology are disclosed. The star-coupler (10) may be constructed from a single injection molded block or a plurality of mating sections (110, 120), and is supplied with a plurality of input ports (12, 14, 16, 18) and a plurality of output ports (22, 24, 26, 28). Each input port as well as each output port is connected to at least one channel. The channels (13, 15, 17, 19, 23, 25, 27, 29) are filled with a fiber optical core material and the single block or mating sections are fabricated from fiber optical core material. Alternatively, a separate cladding material may be coated on surfaces of the block or mating sections (110, 120) which define the channels. Optical signals are guided and confined by the core and cladding material from input ports (12, 14, 16, 18) to output ports (22, 24, 26, 28) along the channels (13, 15, 17, 19, 23, 25, 27, 29).

Description

INJECTION MOLDED STAR-COUPLERS AND METHODS OF MAKING SAME

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

. The present invention is directed to star-couple in which a plurality of optical fibers are connected together. The invention is also directed to methods for making the couplers.

Data transmission over optical fibers offers man significant advantages compared with metallic conductors, including: long distance transmission without the need for repeaters, immunity .from electromagnetic interference, cross-talk and ground loop, high bandwidth capabilities, small size and weight, high degree of intercept security a dielectric isolation, and long term cost reduction. These desirable features of optical fibers have strongly stimula efforts both in fiber optics and in supporting technologie such as fiber optic coupling.

Fiber optic couplers provide for feeding and tapping of optical energy. Fiber optic couplers are widel used in multi-terminal communication systems and data buse In these applications, a common optical path provides communication among a plurality of terminals. Typically, each terminal communicates to every other terminal and provides information on a time shared basis. The effectiveness of such systems depends on characteristics o the optical fibers themselves as well as on the coupling devices employed to share and distribute information. A star-coupler is a device which distributes the power on any one of several incoming channels to every one its outgoing channels. Star-couplers are intended to have minimal insertion losses and a substantially uniform power ' distribution over the outgoing channels. Thus, a system employing a star-coupler and a plurality of terminals represents a parallel distribution system.

Star couplers are particularly useful in the field of optical communications for coupling together a plurality of optic fibers to form a network. Several different starcouplers are known. In general, the couplers have a plurality of incoming channels, a plurality of outgoing channels and a mixing zone which couples optical signals fro any one of the incoming channels to all of the outgoing channels. The mixing zone may comprise optic fibers which are tapered and fused together or wave guides in solid blocks of glass. These glass blocks usually have wave guide specially prepared by ion exchange processes or otherwise, and the fibers are aligned with the wave guides. The incoming and outgoing channels are typically bundles of optical fibers. Information in the form of light pulses as signals from any single optical fiber of the input fiber optic bundle is transmitted via the coupler to each of the optical fibers in the output fiber optic bundle.

Illustrative patents describing these structures include U.S. Patents 4,291,940, 4,362,357, 4,449,783, 4,484,794, 4,590,619 and 4,653,845.

Unfortunately, the above-mentioned type of star- couplers are generally costly and difficult to construct. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

We have devised a star-coupler that is made by injection molding techniques using optical plastics such as those used in optical fiber technology. In accordance with our invention, the coupler comprises a block of plastic or other suitable material that is injection molded to form* inp and output connectors and a mixing zone. The block is made a core and an outer cladding. The core is made of a materia having an index of refraction that is higher than that of th cladding. Advantageously, the core is made of pure polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) and the cladding is made of fluorinated PMMA. Because the.coupler is made by molding techniques, fabrication costs are relatively low compared to those of conventional star-couplers.

The input and output connectors are defined in th injection molding process to have a shape which facilitates their connection to conventional optic fibers and connectors As a result, the star-coupler can readily be connected to th fibers which it is to couple.

The coupler is injection molded following any one of a number of techniques. For example, the coupler can be formed by injection molding a bottom half and a top half wit a material that has a refractive index similar to that of th cladding. Channels are defined in the bottom and/or top halves for receiving the core material, the two halves are fitted together with the channels forming a cavity therebetween and then the core material is injection molded into the cavity defined between the cladding halves. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other objects, features and advantages o the invention will become more readily apparent from the following detailed description of a preferred embodiment of the invention in which:

Fig. 1 is a schematic illustration of a 4 x 4 star-coupler of the present invention;

Fig. 2 is a schematic illustration of a second embodiment of a 4 x 4 star-coupler of the present invention;

Fig. 3 is a schematic illustration of a third embodiment of a 4 x 4 star-coupler of the present invention;

Fig. 4 is a perspective view of the top and bottom halves of the cladding of the injection molded coupler of Fig 1;

Fig. 5 is a modified cross-sectional view along line 5-5 of Fig. 4; and

Fig. 6 is a perspective view of a portion of the injection molded coupler of Fig. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

As shown schematically in Fig. 1, an illustrative embodiment of the invention comprises four input ports 12, 14, 16, 18, a mixing channel or zone 20 and four output ports 22, 24, 26, 28. Input ports 12, 14, 16, 18 are connected to mixing zone 20 by channels 13, 15, 17, 19, respectively. Mixing zone 20 is connected to ports 22, 24, 26, 28 by channels 23, 25, 27, 29, respectively.

These channels and the mixing zone propagate optical signals. Thus, light input to any of the input ports will be transmitted to mixing element 20 where it is then distributed to all of the output ports. For example, light input at input port 12 is transmitted by channel 13 to mixing zone 20. Mixing zone 20 then distributes the light from port 12 to each of output ports 22, 24, 26, 28 along channels 23, 25, 27, 29, respectively. Illustratively, ports 12, 22 are corresponding input and output ports, i.e., they are each connected to the same terminal or data communications device similarly, ports 14, 24, ports, 16, 26 and ports 18, 28 are each connected to the same device. In Fig. 1, as in all of the figures, the channels are schematically depicted and" are not drawn to scale.

Referring now to Fig. 2, there is schematically depicted a further embodiment of a 4 x 4 star-coupler. This particular embodiment comprises input ports 35, 40, 45, 50 a output ports 39, 44, 49, 54 which are located opposite ports 35, 40, 45, 50, respectively. Input port 35 and output port 39 are preferably connected to the same terminal or device. Similarly, ports 40, 44, ports 45, 49 and ports 50, 54 are each connected to the same terminal or device. Each of the input ports is provided with a separate channel to each of t output ports, except the corresponding output port connected to the same device, illustratively, the output port directly opposite that input port. For example, input port 35 is provided with channel 36 to output port 44, channel 37 to output port 49 and channel 38 to output port 54. In this embodiment, input port 35 is not provided with a channel to its opposite corresponding output port, namely, port 39.

Advantageously, such a configuration wherein a star-coupler's input and output ports are not coupled to eac other eliminates the echo encountered in conventional passiv star-couplers.

Fig. 3 is a schematic illustration of another embodiment of the invention comprising input ports 60, 65, 7 75 and output ports 80, 85, 90, 95. As in the embodiment of Fig* / light from any input port is provided to all of the output ports. In this embodiment, a binary tree network connects all input ports to a mixing channel and a second binary tree network connects the mixing channel to all output ports. Specifically, light from input port 60 enters channel 61, then channel 63 and then channel 100. From channel 100, "the light is distributed to channels 83 and 93. From channel 83, the light is distributed to channels 81, 82 which are coupled to ports 80, 85, respectively.' Similarly, from channel 93, the light is distributed to channels 91, 92 which are coupled to ports 90, 95, respectively. Light input to an of input ports 65, 70, 75 is similarly provided to all of the output ports 80, 85, 90, 95.

Referring now to Fig. 4, there is depicted a perspective view of the device schematically illustrated in Fig. 1. This 4 4 star-coupler comprises a first section 11 and a mating second section 120. Illustratively, these sections are mirror images of each other and each forms one half of the star-coupler.

Each of sections 110 and 120 is preferably fabricated by injection molding and comprises a block-like structure having a planar face 112, 122, respectively. A network of channels, preferably semicircular in shape, is formed in each of these faces 112, 122. The configuration of this network has been described in conjunction with Fig. 1.

Attachment of section 110 to section 120 thus provides a network of circular channels in which each input port is connected to all of the output ports. Each input por and each output port is formed by two port portions, for example 12 and 12A.

Advantageously, sections 110, 120 are each constructed from a suitable plastic optic cladding material. Further, the entire network of channels is filled with a suitable fiber optic core material prior to attachment of section 110 to section 120. Application of force (by means not shown) to the sections will cause excess core material t be expelled from between the sections. Alternatively, sections 110, 120 may first be joined together and then core material injected into the ports to entirely fill the channels. The cladding material has a lower index of refraction than the core material. Thus, light is propagate in the core material and guided and confined therein by the cladding material.

A suitable material for the cladding is fluorinat polymethyl ethacrylate (PMMA) while a suitable material for the core is pure PMMA.

Advantageously, the input and output ports are formed during injection molding and are appropriately aligne with respect to the channel(s) to which they are attached. These ports are adapted to be easily connected to known connectors and preferably do not require further machining. The particular shape and configuration of the ports depend o the nature of the connector to which it is to be connected.

In an alternative embodiment from that of Fig. 4, sections 110, 120 are constructed from practically any material which can be injection molded. Fig. 5 illustrates such an embodiment in the form of a modified cross-sectional view of Fig. 4. In this embodiment, a suitable cladding material 122 is applied to the surfaces of section 120 defining channels 23, 25, 27, 29 therein. Core material is then placed within the channels as discussed in conjunction with the description of Fig. 4.

Fig. 6 illustrates a portion of a star-coupler assembled in accordance with the invention. Specifically, a first input port comprises halves 16, 16A and core 130 while second input port comprises halves 18, 18A and core 132. While it is apparent that the invention herein disclosed is well calculated to fulfill the objects stated above, it will be appreciated that numerous modifications and embodiments may be devised by those skilled in the art, and i is intended that the appended claims cover all such modifications and embodiments as fall within the spirit and scope of the present invention.

Specifically, a one-piece structure having a suitable network of channels can be formed by injection molding. Furthermore, the two mating halves which form a star-coupler need not be mirror images of each other, for example, one may contain a channel of more than half of the cross-sectional area of the resultant channel and the other may contain less than half of the cross-sectional area or non of the resultant channel. The channel may be non-circular. For example, for ease of molding operation, the channel can b a rectangular or square-walled channel with a slight taper fo mold release and so on. Moreover, the invention is not limited to the disclosed 4 x 4 star-couplers, but may be practiced with star-couplers having any practical number of ports. Additionally, injection molded fiber optic connectors may be provided to simply connect together two optical fibers and not interconnect various ports and channels as in a conventional star-coupler.

Claims

What is claimed is:
1. An injection molded star-coupler comprising: a first injection molded section having a plurali Of channels therein, a second injection molded section having a corresponding plurality of channels therein, a plurality of injection molded input ports for inputting optical signals, said input ports being integrally formed with said first and second sections and connected to least one channel, a plurality of injection molded output ports for outputting optical signals, said output ports being integral formed with said first and second sections and connected to least one channel, and a fiber optical core material for transmitting optical signals, said core material filling said channels in said first and second sections, said plurality of channels in said first section mating with said plurality of channels in said second sectio to form a corresponding plurality of channels which connect each of said input ports with at least one of said output ports.
2. The injection molded star-coupler of claim 1 wherein said first section and said second section are fabricated from a fiber optical cladding material having an index of refraction lower than the index of refraction of sa fiber optical core material, whereby optical signals are confined and guided within said core material.
3. The injection molded star-coupler of claim 2 wherein said core material is polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) and said cladding material is fluorinated PMMA.
4. The injection molded star-coupler of claim 1 wherein a layer of fiber optical cladding material having an index of refraction lower than the index of refraction of sai fiber optical core material is disposed on surfaces of said first and second sections defining said channels so as to for a cladding structure surrounding said core material, whereby optical signals are confined and guided within said core- material.
5. The injection molded star-coupler of claim 4 wherein said core material is polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) and said cladding material is fluorinated PMMA.
6. The injection molded star-coupler of claim 1 wherein said plurality of channels in each of said first and second sections comprises a mixing channel, a channel from each of said input ports to said mixing channel, and a channe from said mixing channel to each of said output ports.
7. The injection molded star-coupler of claim 1 wherein said plurality of channels in each of said first and second sections comprises a channel from each said input port to each said output port.
8. The injection molded star-coupler of claim 1 wherein said plurality of channels in each of said first and second sections comprises a channel from each said input port to each said output port except that a channel is not provide from each said input port to its corresponding output port connected to the same communications device.
9. The injection molded star-coupler of claim 1 wherein said plurality of channels in each of said first and second sections comprises a first binary tree network connecting all said input ports to a mixing channel and a second binary tree network connecting said mixing channel to all said output ports.
10. The injection molded star-coupler of claim 1 wherein said corresponding plurality of channels which conne each of said input ports with at least one of said output ports have a circular cross-section.
11. The injection molded star-coupler of claim 1 wherein said corresponding plurality of channels which conne each of said input ports with at least one of said output ports have a non-circular cross-section.
12. An injection molded star-coupler comprising: an injection molded block having a plurality of channels therein, a plurality of injection molded input ports for inputting optical signals, said input ports being integrally formed with said block and each being connected to at least one channel, a plurality of injection molded output ports for outputting optical signals, said output ports being integrall formed with said block and each being connected to at least one channel, and a fiber optical core material for transmitting optical signals, said core material filling said channels in said block.
13. The injection molded star-coupler of claim 12 wherein said block is fabricated from a fiber optical claddin material having an index of refraction lower than the index o refraction of said fiber optical core material, whereby optical signals are confined and guided within said core material.
14. The injection molded star-coupler of claim 13 wherein said core material is polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) and said cladding material is fluorinated PMMA.
15. The injection molded star-coupler of claim 12 wherein a layer of fiber optical cladding material having an index of refraction lower than the index of refraction o€ sai fiber optical core material is disposed on surfaces of said block defining said channels in said block so as to form a cladding structure surrounding said core material.
16. The injection molded star-coupler of claim 15 wherein said core material is polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) and said cladding material is fluorinated PMMA.
17. The injection molded star-coupler of claim 12 wherein said plurality of channels in said block comprises a mixing channel, a channel from each of said input ports to said mixing channel, and a channel from said mixing channel t each of said output ports.
18. The injection molded star-coupler of claim 12 wherein said plurality of channels in said block comprises a channel from each said input port to each said output port.
19. The injection molded star-coupler of claim 12 wherein said plurality of channels in said block comprises a channel from each said input port to each said output port except that a channel is not provided from each said input port to its corresponding output port connected to the same communications device.
20. The injection molded star-coupler of claim 1 wherein said plurality of channels in said block comprises a first binary tree network connecting all said input ports to mixing channel and a second binary tree network connecting said mixing channel to all said output ports.
21. The injection molded star-coupler of claim.1 wherein said plurality of channels have a circular cross- section.
22. The injection molded star-coupler of claim 12 wherein said plurality of channels have a non-circular cross- section.
23. A method for constructing a star-coupler comprising the steps of: forming by injection molding a first section havin a plurality of channels therein, a plurality of input port portions and a plurality of output port portions, each of sai input and output port portions being connected to at least on of said channels, forming by injection molding a second section having a plurality of channels therein, a plurality of input port portions and a plurality of output port portions, each o said input and output port portions being connected to at least one of said channels, filling said plurality of channels in each of said first and second sections with a fiber optic core material fo transmitting optical signals, and fastening said first section to said second sectio so as to align said channels and said port portions of said first section with said channels and said port portions of said second section, thus forming a corresponding plurality o channels and ports.
24. The method of claim 23 wherein optical signal are transmitted along and confined within said core material.
25. The method of claim 23 further comprising disposing a fiber optic cladding material on said channels so as to form a cladding structure having a circular cross section surrounding said core material, thereby confining and guiding optical signals transmitted within said core material.
26. The method of claim 23 wherein said filling step comprises injecting said core material into said ports o said star-coupler after said step of fastening.
27. The method of claim 23 wherein said filling step comprises placing said core material in said plurality o channels in said first section and separately placing said core material in said plurality of channels in said second section before said fastening.
28. A method for constructing a star-coupler comprising the steps of: forming by injection molding a block having a plurality of channels therein, a plurality of input ports and a plurality of output ports, each of said input and output ports having centrally located therein at least one channel o said plurality of channels, and filling said plurality of channels in said block with a f-iber optic core material for transmitting optical signals.
29. The method of claim 28 wherein optical signal are transmitted along and confined within said core material.
30. The method of claim 28 further comprising disposing a fiber optic cladding material on surfaces of said block defining said channels so as to form a cladding structure surrounding said core material, thereby confining and guiding optical signals transmitted within said core material.
31. The method of claim 28 wherein said filling comprises injecting said core material into ports of said star-coupler.
PCT/US1990/000228 1989-01-12 1990-01-11 Injection molded star-couplers and methods of making same WO1990008030A1 (en)

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US29700989 true 1989-01-12 1989-01-12
US297,009 1989-01-12

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DE1990630437 DE69030437T2 (en) 1989-01-12 1990-01-11 By einspritzgiessformung generated star coupler and methods for preparing
EP19900902528 EP0453501B1 (en) 1989-01-12 1990-01-11 Injection molded star-couplers and methods of making same
DE1990630437 DE69030437D1 (en) 1989-01-12 1990-01-11 By einspritzgiessformung generated star coupler and methods for preparing

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Applied Optics, Vol. 15, No. 11, 01 November 1976 M.K. BARNOSKI et al, "Fabrication of an Access Coupler with Single-Strand Multimode Fiber Waveguides", Pages 2629-2630. *
Applied Physics Letters, Vol. 26, No. 7, 01 April 1975, TAKESHI OZEKI et al, "Tapered Section of Multimode Cladded Fibers as Mode Filters and Mode Analyzers", Pages 386-388. *
Applied Physics Letters, Vol. 28, No. 9, 01 May 1976, TAKESHI OZEKI et al, "Optical Directional Coupler Using Tapered Sections in Multimode Fibers", Pages 528-529. *
Proceedings of the JEEE, 01 June 1976 Y. YAMAMOTO et al, "A Large-Tolerant Single-Mode Optical Fiber Coupler with a Tapered Structure", Pages 1013-1014. *
See also references of EP0453501A4 *

Cited By (1)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US9164241B2 (en) 2013-07-18 2015-10-20 Honeywell International Inc. Low loss passive optical hub for use in the plastic optical fiber networks

Also Published As

Publication number Publication date Type
CA2045149A1 (en) 1990-07-13 application
EP0453501A4 (en) 1992-09-09 application
EP0453501A1 (en) 1991-10-30 application
DE69030437D1 (en) 1997-05-15 grant
DE69030437T2 (en) 1997-09-04 grant
CA2045149C (en) 1999-05-18 grant
EP0453501B1 (en) 1997-04-09 grant

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